The Runway – The CW Upfronts: What Got Picked Up, What Didn’t, And Why



CW had a pretty interesting pilot season this year. They ultimately decided to cast a wide net, picking up: a comic book show, a prime-time soap reboot, a military drama, and an hour-long comedy. Given the network’s inherent difficulties in drawing eyeballs, you have to wonder if such a broad approach is smart. That being said, I liked the quality of the scripts for these four pilots, and can see merit in ordering each to series.

Valor was one of the happier surprises this pilot season. Though cross-network we’re probably seeing an overload of military drama this year, this was one of the best, at least from a writing perspective. It’s also getting a strong, though not tonally perfect, lead-in with Supergirl. The serialized nature of the show, and the content itself, means Valor is walking a tightrope and will need strong sampling from the jump.

Dynasty was pretty much a no-brainer pick-up for the network. It was hard to tell at the script level if this was more of a fun throwback or a cheesy throwback. The 90210 reboot ran for five seasons on CW, so there is a precedent here for success. A lead-in of Riverdale makes sense.

Life Sentence seems like a decent “utility player” pick-up that can slot in for Jane the Virgin or Crazy Ex-Girlfriend on Fridays. The latter is so strong in content, and so weak in Nielsen ratings, that it’s always a bubble show even before the season starts. That being said, Life Sentence has echoes of No Tomorrow, last year’s cancelled show at CW, so expecting it to do anything more than just fill in might be wishful thinking.

Black Lightning is the obligatory comic book show this pilot season for CW. A mid-season launch should be fine, as it it can slot in for any of the Tuesday or Thursday DC-adapted programs. It feels perhaps a bit more contained as an idea than say The Flash or Arrow, so it’s probably best not to give it the pressure of a traditional fall launch.

Of the four, Dynasty is set up the best for a second season. The premise definitely for an older viewer than 90210 got, but it should get decent sampling due to name recognition. Ultimately, the ratings-strapped network doesn’t seem to have any Gossip Girl level breakouts on its hands, but none of these shows have the hallmarks of outright flops.



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